Erik "The Cole Train" Cole rolled into the RBC on Saturday night, and he kept a rollin all night long! Cole is one of the few players in the league who can dominate a hockey game pretty much by himself when he is on his game, and that's exactly what he tried to do last night, right from the opening faceoff until the last minute of the game. He forechecked, backchecked, skated the puck hard to the net, drew penalties, drew a penalty shot, scored 2 goals, and was hitting everything that moved wearing a white sweater. He earned the game's number one star for his outstanding performance.
Before the game started, the fans got more bad news on the injury front. Glen Wesley had a lower body concern and couldn't play. That left the team with 5 "healthy" defensemen which included previously hurt Nic Wallin and David Tanabe. The good news is that the team responded with a lot of heart and I say team because the forwards dropped back often to help out the D. The defensemen all had good games though, including David Tanabe who got the games 2nd star for his hard work. Mike Commodore deserves praise as well for leading the team with 7 hits. Erik Cole had 6. Nic Wallin led the defense in ice time with over 26 minutes played. Nicely done gentlemen!!
The first period was indeed wild and woolly but looked like it would end up scoreless. Justin Williams made sure it didn't end up that way though with a nifty backhander that surprised Islander goalie Ricky D with less than a second left in the period! Perfect timing Willie!! As mentioned, Erik Cole drew a penalty shot but whiffed on the attempt as he tried to pull the puck back and shoot it while he was changing speed. It looked like the puck stopped moving or slowed significantly. The bad ice I talked about yesterday was prevalent. Both teams played on it though so there are no excuses, I'm just saying that it probably affected the puck on the penalty shot. Cole scored his two goals in the 2nd period, one from a beautiful pass from The Wizard, Ray Whitney, the other off a pass/shot from Cory Stillman during a 5 on 3 advantage. Eric Staal closed out the scoring in the 3rd period and looked to the heavens with relief after finally ending his 9 game drought. Let's hope that's the first of many more for Eric! The Islanders managed to get two goals by Cam Ward, but Cam played another solid game. Final score, Canes 4, Islanders 2. The sold out arena was boisterous and the military there seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. Of course it helped that the Canes played well and won!
Yesterday, I talked about the RBC "road crew" or as they are officially called the Changeover Crew. They had to change the playing surface from a basketball court to a hockey rink in quick time. Well, they ended up breaking their own previous record for time spent for the change. The previous record was 1 hour and 45 minutes, yesterday they managed the task in 1 hour and 20 minutes! Great effort guys! For those of you interested in more information, the News and Observer had a nice article here. I forgot to mention, I have a link to the RBC webcam on the right side bar that you can use to see what's happening in the arena. It's fun to check at times, especially during a changeover like yesterday. RBC webcam
The next game is Tuesday night in Toronto. Will the Canes maintain their intensity from last night, or will it cool off on the shores of Lake Ontario. Stay tuned!